10 Tips For Healthier Sleep
By Marilee Nelson |
If you struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep at night, you know how frustrating it can be. Not only do you wake up feeling exhausted, but if it continues night after night you almost start to dread nightfall, creating a negative cycle of nerves and anxiety that can disrupt your daily schedule. You may have done extensive research on how to improve your sleep and know very well you should stay away from caffeine after noon, avoid eating or drinking too much before bed and sleep in a cold versus warm room - all great advice! However, we’re hoping to offer some lesser known tips (many that do not cost money) on how to optimize your sleep.
Tip #1: Start Your Day With Grounding (Earthing)
When weather and location permit, start your day grounding by walking barefoot outside in the morning on dew-covered grass or wet sand at the beach – the more time, the better! If you can’t get out in the morning, even five minutes at night at sunset and before bed can be helpful. TIp: Pour water on the ground to increase the conduction between the earth and your feet! Studies show that grounding can be life-changing as it improves sleep and daily moods, stabilizes the nervous system and promotes instant anti-inflammatory and wound healing action in the body. The best news; it’s free!
For more information on grounding, watch this incredible available on Youtube, The Earthing Movie: The Remarkable Science of Grounding.
Tip #2: Start & End The Day With Natural Light To Reset Your Circadian Rhythm
Natural blue light in the early morning and at sunset is medicine for the eyes and body. By exposing yourself (preferably outside, versus indoors by windows) to just five to 30 minutes of natural light as close to sunrise and sunset as possible (without sunglasses) can do wonders for our circadian rhythm! It helps reorganize and structure your body’s natural sleep and wake cycle and normalize the production of melatonin.
Tip #3: Use Blue Blockers & Disconnect
Blue light from computers, tablets, phones, televisions or any type of screen is the #1 enemy when it comes to creating healthier sleep. That’s because artificial blue light suppresses the production of melatonin, your body’s master sleep hormone.
Plus, engaging in screen time close to bed causes your brain and body to amp up versus calm down; especially if scrolling through social media or reading the news.
The best solution is to use blue blocker glasses during the day and early in the evening when looking at screens (including TV) and to disconnect from technology completely 1-2 hours before bed. Instead of watching television before bed, try reading, journaling, taking a bath or doing something else that helps you wind down. This may seem like a little thing, but it can make a world of difference when done consistently! It’s also incredible for children, who tend to respond very quickly.
Tip #4: Increase Oxygen Levels When Sleeping
Ensure you are breathing in the optimal amount of oxygen (and good quality oxygen) while you sleep! If you can, open your windows at night. If you aren’t comfortable with that, try to open your windows each day for 10 minutes before you go to bed to bring fresh air to increase oxygen levels. Keep a houseplant or two in your room to increase oxygen in the air.
Also, consider doing deep breathing exercises before you go to bed to relax your muscles and fill your brain with oxygen. Breathing exercises can help you sleep and breathe more naturally and effectively.
Tip #5: Swap Out LEDs For Incandescent Light Bulbs Or Natural Light
Sadly, it turns out that there are unintended consequences from these energy saving LED lights. Artificial blue light doesn’t just come from screens, it also comes from LED lights. These lights are shining blue light all over our homes. To fix this in our homes, we recommend tossing LED lights, switching to incandescent bulbs (not compact fluorescents, which have their own toxicity issues) and using more natural light. Yes - they use more energy, but you can make up for this in other ways like opening your windows instead of running your HVAC, line-drying your clothes and unplugging small appliances when they’re not in use.
If you’re building a new home you might consider energy saving light tubes. Also known as “tubular skylights”, they look like an overhead light but fill the room with natural light from the sun. You can even find some that store daytime light for nighttime use! These do cost more on the front-end, but are worth a look if you’re planning on staying in your home long-term.
Tip #6: Address Indoor Air Quality To Minimize Congestion & Allergies
Poor indoor air quality has been shown to contribute to sleep quality, concentration and cognitive performance the next day.
A quick way to improve indoor air quality is to open your windows for just 10 minutes in the morning and evening to flush the air and increase oxygen levels. To dramatically and permanently improve your home’s air quality, remove products with toxic chemicals like fragrance, VOCs, SVOCs, dust and pesticides. You can achieve this by learning how to #TossTheToxins throughout your home, using a high-quality air purifier, cleaning and HEPA vacuuming regularly and swapping out your air filters every 1-3 months.
Related Reading: Home Cleaning Guide for Allergy Sufferers
Tip #7: Avoid Excitotoxins In Your Diet
Excitotoxins are found in many types of processed foods (even “all natural” or “organic” brands) and include synthetic monosodium glutamate (MSG) and other substances with glutamic acid added to enhance flavor. The problem is embedded in their name; they’re excitatory, meaning excess amounts can excite neurons to the point of death or burnout. This leads to a variety of problems for the brain, gut, nervous system and more that can impact sleep. They’re particularly harmful for children, and we have seen miracles in how removing them from the diet can help restore a child’s sleep and behavior.
The tricky thing about excitotoxins is they go by dozens of different names - from MSG and natural flavor to ascorbic acid and hydrolyzed vegetable protein. But, we’ve got your covered! Check out our Excitotoxin List which you can print out and take with you while you’re shopping. For more information, take a look at How Excitotoxins In Our Diets Are Affecting Our Health.
Tip #8: Wear Pajamas & Use Sheets Made Of Natural Fabrics To Let Your Skin Breathe
The sheets and pajamas you sleep in can make a difference to your quality of sleep. Synthetic fabrics don’t allow your skin to breathe which is significant since your skin goes through its own detoxification process at night. The best option is to sleep in organic, natural fabrics such as cotton or linen (look for the Global Organic Textile “GOTS” label). The next-best option is to go for natural fabrics like cotton, linen or hemp.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised that even Target has a great deal on organic cotton sheets and organic pajamas. These fabrics can be found in many different brands, styles and price points. Check out our previous blogs A Quick Guide to Natural and Non-Toxic Bedding and How to Choose Healthy and Sustainable Clothing to get a list of our favorite brands.
Related Reading: 3 Tools You Need to Become Your Own Product Advocate
Tip #9: Write It Down
You may have heard this tip before, but it’s so effective we felt it was worth mentioning! Every night before you go to sleep, take a few minutes to write down issues that concern you. This is called expressive writing. Stored emotions and stresses (that we are even unaware of concerning unresolved issues, trauma, or stuffed feelings) can have an enormous impact on the body. This exercise helps us “let go” and has been proven to improve sleep, lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, depression, and improve immunity. Getting everything out of your brain and onto paper is a powerful way to switch your brain from activity mode to rest mode.
If you want to learn more on the topic, watch Expressive Writing: An Interview with Dr. James Pennebaker.
Tip #10: Reduce Exposure To Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR) Sources
AC Magnetic Fields
AC magnetic fields have been linked to miscarriage and are suspected to impact immune function. Magnetic fields are created when current is flowing on wiring or from point sources like an electric clock that is plugged in or a lamp that is turned on. The closer you are to a point source that is turned on, the higher the magnetic field. In general, the magnetic field from these point sources typically extend about 3 feet. There is no magnetic field when a device is turned off.
To reduce AC magnetic fields in your bedroom:
- Eliminate exposure by simply moving your bed and creating distance from the source.
- Make sure there is not an electric utility meter (analog or smart meter), breaker panel or room air conditioner on the wall behind your bed as these all emit high magnetic fields. Instead, move your bed to another wall.
- If you run an air purifier at night, keep it at least 3 feet from your bed.
- Do not sleep or sit on the other side of a wall where a refrigerator or TV is located.
- Ensure your bed on an upper floor is not directly over fluorescent light fixtures or a ceiling fan in the room below.
- Only use electric blankets for warming your bed before you jump in. When you are in bed, make sure the blanket is unplugged, not just turned off.
- Electric clocks have high magnetic fields. Instead, use battery-operated clocks next to your bed.
- Plug motorized or electric beds into a power strip with an on/off switch and switch off after adjusting.
- Waterbeds can be a high source of magnetic fields. Make sure to unplug at night and consider another option when you are able to.
- Plugged in cell phone chargers emit magnetic fields. Do not charge your phone in the bedroom when sleeping, instead charge your phone in a different room.
AC Electric Fields
Years ago (before the advent of computers, cell phones and WiFi), German Baubiologists declared that AC electric fields in the bedroom were a major reason that people with chronic illness did not recover. Electric fields have been shown to have adverse effects on the nervous system. They are a measure of voltage and are present whether there is current flow or not. High voltages in the sleeping place have been linked to insomnia and inhibition of the healing process. The higher the AC Electric Field levels are in a bedroom, the less melatonin is released by the pineal gland and the less time we spend in deep stage four sleep.
To reduce AC electric fields in your bedroom:
Unplug all lamps, clocks, and devices in the bedroom before sleeping.
See this article for further information on reduction of electric fields.
High Frequency Fields (RF)
Wifi: Studies have shown that excess exposure to high frequency fields (RF) electromagnetic fields, like those that come from wireless technology, can impede our sleep
Cell Phones: As for cell phones, do not charge your phone in the same room at night when you are sleeping. Also, switch your cell phone to Airplane mode at night and ensure the WiFi, Bluetooth and hotspot are all disabled.
Smart Meters: If you have a Smart Meter, this Ted Talk is a must-listen for more information and how to educate yourself on it. Smart meters emit microbursts of RF radiation as well as dirty electricity 24/7. Call your power company and ask to have your Smart Meter removed. If you don't know what you have, inquire with your power company.
A Final Bit Of Advice: If These Tips Don’t Help, Get Help!
Occasional sleeplessness due to stress, travel or a big life event is normal and to be expected. However, if you have trouble every night over a long period of time, it may be time to enlist the help of a qualified expert. Often, chronic sleep issues are a symptom of another ailment such as hidden infections, trauma, hormonal imbalances, mental health issues, food sensitivities or thyroid problems. It may be worth a trip to an expert to explore and address the root cause. A good night’s sleep is a priority for our health and wellness!
Marilee Nelson is an Environmental Toxins expert who has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the chemically-sensitive and chronically-ill. She is a Board Certified Nutritionist, Certified Bau-Biologist and Bau-Biology Inspector and specializes in Food As Medicine. She has helped thousands of families and individuals identify, heal and recover from toxic exposures and is on a mission to revolutionize the way American families view their health.